The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of outdoor gear

How We Tested Sandals

Friday May 24, 2019
We couldn't find anywhere the Z/Volv 2 couldn't go.
We couldn't find anywhere the Z/Volv 2 couldn't go.

Hiking Sandals have a huge variety of uses, from casual wear around town to beach walks, stream crossings, and technical hikes. This huge range of applications made testing these shoes a fun challenge. To gain a comprehensive assessment, each model got involved in all sorts of fun, including hiking, trail running, kayaking and rafting, fishing, skateboarding, bike rides, beach walks, and plenty more. Our daily grind included conditions that were dry and dusty, wet and mossy, muddy, sandy, or rocky, giving us a confident calculation of how these models stack up against each other.

Comfort


To evaluate the comfort of each model, we noted how the footbeds felt and how the straps cradled our feet. We compared the fit and feel fresh out of the box and after a reasonable break-in period. We noted if we sensed any friction spots or blisters, and how the materials felt against our skin. Finally, we looked for any design features that might be impacted by different foot shapes or sizes.

We tested comfort out of the box and on a variety of surfaces.
We tested comfort out of the box and on a variety of surfaces.

Traction


We gauged our traction scores by hiking and running on a variety of surfaces, including loose, dusty trails, mossy creekbeds, steep granite scrambles, and sandy beaches. This year we also subjected part of our lineup to the new "Slime Test," a slick, mossy set of beach steps that in our opinion is as slippery as anything you'll come across. We noted how the sole material interacted with the ground, and how our feet felt against the footbed. From wet and dry conditions, uphill, downhill, and sidehill slopes, to carrying a pack or wrangling a puppy, we put these shoes through the wringer.

The Cairn was our top performer for traction  including making easy work of these wet  slippery beach steps in our new "Slime Test."
The Cairn was our top performer for traction, including making easy work of these wet, slippery beach steps in our new "Slime Test."

Stability


For our stability scores, we noted how sturdy, balanced, and secure our feet felt across the same variety of terrain. We paid close attention to the sole thickness and stiffness, footbed shape, and security of the strap system. We tested how stable each model felt across a variety of different slopes, surfaces, and weather conditions.

This rocky creekbed hike challenged even the most stable models.
This rocky creekbed hike challenged even the most stable models.

Adjustability


Adjustability was scored by how efficiently and how effectively we could dial in each model to fit our feet. We noted how simple and intuitive or complicated the adjustment system was, and if there were any areas where we couldn't achieve our desired fit. We also paid attention to how well each sandal stayed correctly adjusted after movement or exposure to different conditions, and if re-adjustment on the fly was easy to do or even necessary.

The Leadville Pacer was easy to adjust on-the-go.
The Leadville Pacer was easy to adjust on-the-go.

Versatility


Our last performance metric in our testing was versatility. We looked for models that could hold their own in any of our outdoor pursuits, from creekbed hikes, craggy ascents, and stream crossings, to neighborhood and beach walks, cruising to the beach, or hitting up happy hour. High scores in the category went to products that didn't have any major functional weaknesses and had a style that we weren't afraid to rock around town.

These days there are several models that are capable of doing it all.
These days there are several models that are capable of doing it all.